Mission and History

Mission & History

Mission

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Franklin Graham leads a team to deliver Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to boys and girls in Bosnia in 1995.

History

In the summer of 1993, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham received a call from a man in England asking if he’d be willing to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia. Franklin agreed, but figured Christmas was months away. He forgot about the promise until he received a call back around Thanksgiving asking about the gifts.

Franklin asked his friend the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte to see if he could help with the need. A Sunday shortly afterward, Pastor Rhoads demonstrated for his congregation how to fill a shoebox with simple gifts and encouraged them to include a letter to the child as well. Within weeks, the church had 11,000 shoeboxes lining their hallways.

Due to their generosity and additional gifts from Canada, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas.

Every year since, Samaritan’s Purse has collected shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children around the world. Since 1993, more than 178 million children in more than 150 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project delivers not only the joy of what, for many kids, is their first gift ever, but also gives them a tangible expression of God’s love.

Tens of thousands of volunteers from local churches around the world partner with us to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ at festive outreach events where children are surprised with these shoebox gifts.

“Every box is an opportunity to reach a child with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
—Franklin Graham
President, Samaritan's Purse

The Greatest Journey

In addition, we have trained over 1.1 million volunteers from these congregations to teach The Greatest Journey, our dynamic follow-up discipleship course for shoebox recipients. Since 2009, 23.3 million children have enrolled in this 12-lesson program to learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others. More than 11.2 million of these boys and girls have made a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior during the course. Many are now praying for and sharing their faith with family and friends. As a result of this ever-expanding witness, new churches are starting and communities are being transformed!

More than 11.2 million boys and girls have made a decision to follow Christ.

Behind the Scenes

This whole process is made possible by caring individuals who pack shoeboxes full of quality gifts for children in need. Many of these shoebox packers also use our Follow Your Box feature to discover the country where their gift will be delivered.

More than 9,000 year-round volunteers also get the word out about the Samaritan’s Purse project across the U.S. In addition, some 80,000 short-term volunteers serve in nearly 5,000 drop-off locations open across the country every year during National Collection Week, the third week in November. Each shoebox collected then travels to one of eight processing centers to be inspected and prepared for international shipment by 90,000 volunteers. All of this is supported by the 27,000 volunteers in our prayer network.

In 2019 alone, more than 10.5 million Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts were collected throughout Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

More than 10.5 million shoebox gifts were collected in 2019.

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